UK Labour and antisemitism

Last year I wrote a post about antisemitism and racism in UK politics.

This post will focus on the UK Labour Party’s handling of the antisemitism issue.

Three points:

  1. Jeremy Corbyn is not antisemitic.
  2. The UK Labour Party’s handling of the antisemitism issue has been bungled.
  3. Being critical of the policies of the Israeli government is not antisemitic.

Whatever criticisms can be made about Jeremy Corbyn and his politics, to say he is antisemitic is not true. This article lists 50 times Jeremy Corbyn stood in solidarity with the Jewish Community, usually against far right thugs.

The Labour Party have not handled the antisemitism issue well. Jeremy Corbyn as leader is part of that and must take responsibility. But so too must all MPs and office holders, across the different factions of the Party.

The common responses to allegations of antisemitism in UK Labour have been:

  • Its only a handful of people in a party of over 600,000 members
  • Its a beat up by the right of the party/the media to attack Corbyn’s leadership
  • The Tories are far more racist.

None of the above responses cut it at all. Here’s why:

  • One racist remark or action is one too many. There have been examples of antisemitic comments or actions by UK Labour members. The response, especially when this issue first came to light, was not strong enough.
  • The right of the party are unhappy that they have lost power. They don’t like that politics has moved on from 1997, or that their beloved 3rd way mantra is no longer relevant or electorally viable. And yes, instead of accepting this harsh fact of life, they are like a wounded animal actively trying to kill what they percieve wounded them. They will use whatever weapon is in their grasp. By mishandling the antisemitism issue the right were given a weapon. That antisemitism reflects badly on all of the UK Labour Party, including the right seems to have evaded some.
  • The media – well thats a topic for a whole other post. Is the UK’s media balanced in political reporting? Many would say no. Has there been antisemitism by members of the UK Labour Party? Yes. Given this, the media were always going to go on the attack.
  • Racism in the Conservative Party is a problem, and there is sadly plenty of evidence of this. None of this excuses antisemitism within UK Labour.

UK Labour has stepped up on this issue, and issued guidance to members and supporters. This response is whats needed, and should have been the response 2 years earlier.

Criticism of the Israeli government is not antisemitism. There are Zionists who claim that criticising the actions of the Israeli state against the Palestinians is antisemitic. This position is both wrong, stupid and incredibly dangerous.

Let’s be clear, saying that Israel should leave the occupied territories and the pre 1967 border is not antisemitic. This has been the official UK government policy since the 6 day war. But sadly there are many Zionists who do argue precisely this point.

One thing that struck me moving to London, was how much stronger the Israeli lobby is compared to NZ. This is felt throughout politics in the UK.

Jeremy Corbyn has been a long standing critic of Israel’s policy towards the Palestinians.  And there are those who make these allegations of antisemitism, or that Corbyn supports terrorists, precisely because he has criticised Israel or the Netanyahu government. Again, to do so is foolish, inaccurate and dangerous.

Antisemitism is a surge on society, as is Islamophobia and all other forms of racism. The UK Labour Party has had an issue with this. It is addressing it now, but should have acted much sooner. More generally, UK politics on all sides needs to address that racism continues to be an ugly reality that needs to be confronted.

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